Magnolia, Seattle
Magnolia, Seattle Karl Weatherly/

Gene Balk's June 28 story "'Mean world syndrome': In some Seattle neighborhoods, fear of crime exceeds reality" has upset a number of people who live in the pretty posh and almost totally white neighborhood of Magnolia. They are mad at him for stating what should be obvious to anyone whose relationship with reality is checked and shaped by the facts.

By comparing a recent public safety study conducted by the Seattle University’s Department of Criminal Justice with crime statistics from the Seattle Police Department, Balk found that the crimes roiling in the heads of many of the residents of this bland part of town significantly surpassed those happening in reality. And so, where most of us see Magnolia for what it is and will ever be (boring streets, boring homes, and people dressed boringly and doing boring things), these residents see something that looks like it's straight out of Compton, or Escape from New York, or Colors, or Fort Apache, The Bronx.

The part of Balk's story that upset so many in Fort Apache, Magnolia:

...[Y]ou’re much more likely to be a victim of crime in, say, downtown’s Belltown neighborhood than you are in quiet, affluent Magnolia — crime statistics bear that out.

But here’s where it gets interesting: According to Seattle University’s survey, it’s Magnolia — not Belltown — where the fear of crime is higher, and by more than 4 points.

A number of people posted on Safe Seattle—a group on Facebook that's rabidly anti-homeless people and pro the most bland, most vapid, most suffocating values that the history of our kind of animal, the humankind, has ever conceived, middle-class values—that basically Balk was wrong about Magnolia and that nobody has seen anything like the trouble they have seen. It's a regular Planet of the Apes out there. Tires be burning on the street and shit. Broken glass everywhere. Whores occupying every street corner. That kind of thing. In Magnolia. One of the least dense neighborhoods in Seattle. 88 percent white. Household median income over $100,000. Median house price nearly a mil. What is going on here?

One poor soul even claimed on Safe Seattle that crime got so bad in Magnolia that she had to pack her things and leave it for good. She also made sure to point out that she isn't the hysterical type. That the crimes she saw and feared were not projected from her own imagination onto the streets. They actually, really, truly, madly happened to her. All of the time. One has the impression that she never left a grocery store without a struggle for her purse. It was just non-stop crime. She even bought a gun. She was ready to exchange bullets with Magnolia's seething underworld. Maybe duck behind the sectional and plug bullets into the chambers of her revolver. Maybe dive and roll into the kitchen and let two fly from behind the freezer with French doors.

Again, what is going on? Why do these people believe they have it so bad? What's heating their crime hallucinations? I'm not a stoner but I have been told (by a pothead of course) that way back in the day, back in medieval Europe somewhere, villagers did this very interesting thing. They would form a close hand-to-hand circle around a big and burning heap of pot plants. And the thick smoke from the fire would bake them together. The pot was so powerful they would all fall backwards sky-high. I think the people of Magnolia are doing something similar to this. But instead of getting communally stoned on pot, they are communally hallucinating on the fumes of Safe Seattle. You with me on that?